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Reviewed by Will Harris
dmit it: you wouldn’t have expected a series about a bunch of con men to stay interesting for quite this long.
When “Hustle” premiered in 2004, it seemed less like a long-term concept and more like an extended film, where we’d watch Michael (Adrian Lester), Stacie (Jaime Murray), Ash (Robert Glenister), Albert (Robert Vaughn), and Danny Blue (Marc Warren) pull a couple of cons and retire happily ever after to wherever it is that all good confidence men go. There was something about this creation of Tony Jordan’s that allowed it to extend beyond the concept. Not only did we gradually learn more about the various characters, but the sleek, fast-moving design of the series kept it consistently interesting. (Plus, we learned pretty quickly that there’s no such thing as “the last con,” because those who’ve been in the business for the long haul can’t resist a challenge.)
As Season Four of “Hustle” begins, Michael is MIA, which leaves one-time low man on the totem pole Danny with the perfect opportunity to start flexing his muscles. The opening episode finds the gang traveling to America -- Hollywood, to be specific. Guest star Robert Wagner plays Anthony Westley, a collector of movie memorabilia, and in an attempt to sway him into a big-money situation, Danny mouths off that he actually provide Westley with the opportunity to own the Hollywood sign. It’s a laughable suggestion, but damned if the crew doesn’t figure out a way to make it look viable. Surprisingly, this isn’t the only trip to the States this season: the season finale finds Albert in Las Vegas, getting the hell beat out of him by the son of a casino owner he once crossed. Vaughn, generally the picture of suave, manages to look like a man defeated, refusing to allow anyone to assist him in getting payback. Of course, they ignore him completely, resulting in an explosive finale that you more or less expect but still enjoy seeing come to pass. That’s the good and bad thing about “Hustle” -- simply by playing the odds, you know that the gang will end up pulling off a successful con…or do you? Actually, there’s one episode this time around where the group gets a much-deserved comeuppance, and it’s done so well that the lot of them are in awe of how well they’ve been taken.
It may not surprise you to discover that, in Michael’s absence, the producers decided to bring in a new character to fill the void: Billy Bond (Ashley Walters), who’s absolutely in awe of Danny. Of course, everyone else is immediately suspect of the guy, if only because they can’t trust his taste in con men, but Billy soon proves his worth, and he’s a fine addition to the group. One wonders, however, how his presence will go over with Michael (presuming, that is, we ever get a Season Five that allows such an opportunity). As it stands, there’s no concrete word on the matter, but should such a thing never come to pass, Season Four would certainly serve as a successful closing chapter for the adventures of Britain’s greatest con-men.
Special Features: Nothing too dramatic, which is disappointing for a BBC series, but there is, at least, a very nice two-part featurette – one part for each disc – that provides a backstage look at the cast and crew as they film in America.